A girl, Sarah Tobias (Jodie Foster) is gang-raped in a bar and the assailants are brought to court to face trial. Her inexperienced defence lawyer, Kathryn Murphy (Kelly McGillis) accepts a lesser plea of reckless endangerment, just to get the men behind bars. By so doing, the accused escape the full term of punishment by plea-bargaining their charge down to reckless endangerment, a lesser indictment when it comes to length of imprisonment. Feeling professionally embarrassed over not having offered Sarah a choice of testifying before agreeing to the deal, Kathryn is determined to prosecute the spectators for criminal solicitation. Conversely, if the case is successful, the rape would go on record and the rapists will stay in prison for the full 5-year term.
Understandably, the victim is furious about this judgement and agrees to bring to trial the men who cheered on and encouraged the gang rape of a woman in a public place. The story shows how, as often seems to happen, the raped woman gets accused of bringing the rape upon herself, because of how she is provocatively dressed and her behaviour relating to the level of alcohol she had consumed at the time in question. The District Attorney states to the jury that, a person is guilty of criminal solicitation if he commands, induces, entreats or otherwise persuades another person to commit a felony.
Jodie Foster deservedly won her first Best Actress Oscar for her powerful performance as the victim of a gang rape who has to face some harsh realities in the American judicial process as well as her own character assassination. Her lawyer Kelly McGillis is determined to prosecute those who goaded on the assailants and the suspense of the courtroom is maintained throughout as the script takes a number of flashbacks leading up to the crime and the entire rape incident helps in portraying the victims emotions and bringing the guilty to justice.
The film, excellently directed by Jonathan Kaplan is a very important film in depicting a graphic rape sequence, highlighting this as an act of violence and not sexually related. This film is intended to be disturbing, even more so because it is based on a true story.